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Culture Books


Family dynamics in an age of confusion

Recent books about marriage and family issues

With These Words by Rob Flood: Flood provides married couples with practical tools to tame the tongue and become more effective communicators. With examples from his marriage and other married couples, he analyzes unhealthy communication patterns and interweaves Biblical wisdom that provides better alternatives. The book addresses the importance of first responses, prayer, physical touch, forgiveness, listening, and proper timing—with the goal of glorifying God and loving one’s spouse more fully. Communication is fundamental for married couples, yet for change to occur, believers must be willing to look honestly at their own weaknesses and embrace the power to change that comes only through Jesus Christ.

Why Is My Teenager Feeling Like This? by David Murray: This book draws from 18 real-life examples to illustrate various struggles teenagers have with depression and anxiety. Murray, a pastor and counselor, helps parents and other adults identify possible root causes and understand how to pray, apply Scripture, ask the right questions, and point teens to Christ. Each case study includes various “keys”—Scripture meditation, rest, exercise, digital detox, prayer, and in some cases, medication—to help address underlying issues. Though not exhaustive, the book provides a starting point for parents and children to address mental illness and emotional disorders “as common experiences in a fallen world.” A companion book for teens, Why Am I Feeling Like This?, is also available.

Embodied by Preston Sprinkle: Sprinkle seeks to address transgenderism with empathy and truth. He refers to his transgender friends throughout the book and relates their nuanced experiences. He looks plainly at what Scripture says—how our bodies are an essential part of our image-bearing status, how the distinction of male and female in Genesis 1 describes biological sex not gender identity, and how Jesus affirmed this while overturning social views on masculinity and femininity. The book examines the roles that gender stereotypes, intersex conditions, rapid-onset gender dysphoria, pronouns, and other factors play in this cultural moment. Sprinkle calls Christians to form “a radically biblical community … one that affirms bodies, rejects stereotypes, pursues truth with humility, and lavishes grace on everyone who fails.”

Them Before Us by Katy Faust and Stacy Manning: Faust and Manning believe children’s rights should supersede adult desires. They examine divorce, abandonment, donor conception, surrogacy, and same-sex parenthood through a child’s perspective. They argue that redefining marriage has led to redefining parenthood, and children face real setbacks, losses, risks, and wounds outside of a stable home with a married, biological mother and father. Children’s voices are often underrepresented or dismissed in cultural and policy discourse, and the book includes policy recommendations that factor children’s rights. Faust’s experiences as a child of divorce (her mother became a lesbian), a pastor’s wife, an adoptive mother, and a children’s rights activist add depth to the book’s robust research and compelling testimonials.

—This story appears in the March 13, 2021, issue under the headline “Family dynamics.”

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Springing the trap

The modern drift away from Darwinism

Michael Behe’s A Mousetrap for Darwin (Discovery Institute, 2020) shows that science is a contact sport. Behe’s title refers to his metaphor for explaining why Darwinism is an inadequate explanation for complexity. A mousetrap cannot improve its importance by adding on one piece, then another: It doesn’t work unless it has all its parts. 

Behe became famous (or infamous) in 1996 with his Darwin’s Black Box, which showed how little Darwin knew about cells. Since then the Lehigh University professor has been under attack, and his new book shows his responses to abuse from Richard Dawkins and others. The state of the battle now? Behe writes, “It may surprise people who get their information about the state of science from gee-whiz puff pieces in the mainstream media, but, although strong partisans still hold out, the eclipse of Darwinism in the scientific community is well-advanced.”

The crucial change is this: “What scientists of earlier times took to be a primitive abacus has turned out to be a futuristic supercomputer. What biologists of Darwin’s day thought was a ‘simple little lump of albuminous combination of carbon’ (the cell)—pretty much just a microscopic piece of Jell-O—has turned out to be a fully automated, nanoscale factory, sophisticated beyond human imagining.”

As I’ve read more about God’s creativity in this, I’ve been more and more amazed. Behe writes, “Machines in cells act as taxis and trucks, shuttling passengers and supplies across vast distances (relative to the size of the molecules), along cellular highways marked by traffic signs, both also made of molecules. Cellular computer programs of bewildering sophistication control the assembly of the machinery. Elegant genetic regulatory networks express the information in DNA to produce the right molecules at the right times in the right places, building the intricate bodies of animals.” 

Behe asks, “How could Darwin’s clunky mechanism—one tiny, random change at a time, each followed by a long, fitful, and uncertain period of natural selection, with no ability to anticipate future needs—account for the molecular marvels that modern biology had uncovered? Increasingly the answer became, it couldn’t. The more science advanced and the more elegance and complexity was uncovered, the more biologists drifted away from Darwinism.”

Two worldviews—Darwin’s and the Bible’s—now compete. Margaret MacMillan’s War: How Conflict Shaped Us (Random House, 2020) examines a key part of human history from a Darwinian perspective. She asks whether “humans are genetically programmed to fight each other. … We cannot deny, I think, the inheritance evolution has left us.” But she holds out hope: Maybe we’re more like peaceful bonobos than their vicious chimpanzee cousins. Or maybe, “with new and terrifying weapons, the growing importance of artificial intelligence, automated killing machines and cyberwar, we face the prospect of the end of humanity itself.”

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Racial crossroads

More Black History Month reads

Why Black Lives Matter (Cascade, 2020) is a collection of thoughtful essays edited by Anthony Bradley, who explains why they do: “Because African Americans are made in the Image of God.” The last two essays, “The Black Church and Orthodoxy” by Anthony Carter and “The Prosperity Gospel” by Ken Jones, show how black churches are at a theological crossroads. 

To assess the political crossroads I recommend books from the Christian left and the Christian right: How To Fight Racism by Jemar Tisby (Zondervan, 2021) and Eight Questions About Race by Aubrey Shines (Emancipation Books, 2020). Tisby provides helpful theology in a chapter on “How To Explain Race and the Image of God” and helpful sociology in “How To Make Friends.” Shines last year led a new group, Conservative Clergy of Color, and notes that well-intentioned welfare programs “often took the place of black breadwinners and discouraged the formation of stable families.” Result: More than 70 percent of black children are born to unwed mothers. 

Both authors emphasize the need for criminal justice reform. Both want better public schools: Tisby rightly emphasizes the need for equitable funding and wants school districts to “redraw their boundaries to include poorer neighborhoods and ones with more students of color.” Shines wants to improve public schools “through competition and accountability. Black parents need the option of sending their children to a charter or private school instead.” 

Tisby rightly recommends incorporating lamentation into worship, corporately confessing the sin of racism, and striving to meet people of different racial and ethnic backgrounds. He rightly wants us to work for criminal justice reform, send children to integrated schools, and be careful about blindly quoting theologians who were blind to racism. He writes about taking care when quoting not just theologians who advocated racism, like R.L. Dabney, but slaveowners like Jonathan Edwards. 

And yet, if white pastors and writers should be careful about whom they quote and honor, so should blacks. Tisby positively quotes Angela Davis, “an academic and an activist who has been involved in Black freedom struggles since the 1960s.” Freedom in one sense, but she was also a Communist Party vice presidential candidate during the 1980s who never apologized for opposing the liberation of the Soviet Union’s slaves. 

Shines is worth reading alongside Tisby: Both writers believe that black lives matter, but Shines criticizes the BLM organization because it’s a war-maker, “a political movement properly understood as a blend of black nationalism and Marxism.” 

I also learned from Bill Steigerwald’s 30 Days a Black Man (Lyons Press, 2017). It’s about Ray Sprigle, a white reporter who in 1948 with sun and chemicals darkened his skin and passed as black. He wrote in newspapers about the “bondage—not quite slavery but not quite freedom”—that he witnessed. Among other things, he showed that “separate but equal” was “a brazen, cynical lie.”

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